In 2020, we published the Science of a Happy Home report, sparking a national conversation about how our homes can support our wellbeing.
It urged us to shift towards thinking of our homes as personal environments, rather than just properties. In other words, rather than talking about the number and size of rooms, we should be talking about how our homes support our wellbeing.
The research found six universal qualities to describe our homes: Secure, Nourishing, Adaptable, Relaxed, Connected and Reflective. These qualities tell us where to focus in order to increase happiness in our homes. As architects, designers and planners, it also shows us how to create homes that support the wellbeing of the people who live in them.
Adaptable homes are able to meet our changing needs and respond to our daily rhythms, as well as the long term changes in our lives.
A home is a place to connect, giving us the space to interact with family and friends while also maintaining our relationship to the outside world.
Who we are should shape where we live. A home should be a mirror which reflects our values and personalities - uniquely tailored to who we are.
To be nourishing our homes should provide the conditions we need to thrive, optimising everything from light levels to air and sound quality.
After a long day our home should help us switch off, with spaces that make us feel calm, comfortable and at ease.
Homes that are secure provide us with shelter, safety and stability, and we don’t have too much to worry about in terms of looking after them.
Since then, our approach has been steered by our knowledge of what makes a home a happy place. We wanted to test whether the existing six qualities held up today. So we decided to run the study again. This report outlines what we’ve learned about how much we’ve really changed.
This isn’t about aesthetics, it’s about the real benefits you can get from applying a different way of thinking to your home.
We want to know which factors of home life have the biggest impact on our sense of security, pride and happiness so we can further our understanding of how to make meaningful improvements.
Does the world around us have a significant impact on what we want from our homes or are there elements of home we all intrinsically crave?
Resi used Focaldata to conduct a poll among a representative sample of British homeowners. Data was collected from a sample of 2,005 homeowners between 14 March and 16 March 2023.
Focaldata is a research data platform that combines sampling, scripting, fieldwork and data processing into a single intuitive tool. Focaldata uses technology and machine-learning-based techniques to measure public attitudes and behaviours more accurately and efficiently than traditional research agencies.
Focaldata is a registered member of the British Polling Council (BPC), Market Research Society (MRS) and the International Association for the Measurement and Evaluation of Communication (AMEC).
Co-presenter of Channel 4’s property show Location, Location, Location
Resi’s Happy Home report is a window into what makes a house run well, for the long term. Looking at the insights, it’s clear that homeowners want to invest in reducing the cost of running their homes and improving their home comfort. In other words, UK homeowners want to future proof their homes. This chimes with the struggles of winter 2022. Our properties need to be doing more, and more efficiently, to keep bills down and those in the home warm.
Homes built for Victorian Britain simply aren’t fit for today but, in 2050, 80% of them will still be standing. Given this, it’s urgent that we adapt them for our changing climate before they’re entirely unable to serve us. The positive news is that we’re finally learning exactly how to invest in our homes to make a real-life, long-term difference.
The results from Resi’s Happy Home report show that, in 2023, reducing home-running costs is twice as important to us than adding value to our homes. With this priority in mind, if you’re looking to future-proof your home and learn more about which renovations to prioritise, this report is essential reading. Build your action plan towards a happier home today.
Co-founder and CEO of Resi
In 2019, we started talking about Happy Homes. This may sound like marketing jargon but we approached it scientifically, with academic rigour. We studied the literature, conducted a demographically representative survey, and developed robust insights with our data set. This gave us an understanding of what influences our wellbeing at home, which we codified with six qualities that make for a Happy Home.
We determined that there aren't good or bad design features. Instead, design features need to work around your needs. But designing with the qualities in mind sets you off in the right direction. That’s why we spend a lot of time upfront to understand a customer and what exactly they’re looking to get out of their home.
We’re excited to share that we have re-visited this research and re-run our Happy Homes Survey. In analysing the results, it tracks with me that we haven’t changed as much as the world might have us believe. Fundamentally, we’re creatures of habit and when it comes to what we want in our homes, the main findings from last time have endured. And that’s no bad thing.
That said, our findings confirm that all the chatter around energy isn’t misplaced. Improving our homes for lower bills is the top priority amongst UK homeowners. With our findings, we want to offer you real, practical ideas and questions to bear in mind when you’re approaching changes to your home so you can make it as happy a place as possible.
We first ran our Happy Homes survey in 2019 and published the results in January 2020. A great deal has been said about the ways in which the world has transformed in the wake of the pandemic (fear not, we won't dwell on this in our report). Discussions about shifting priorities and the evolving roles of our homes have been widespread. Contrary to all of that, when we surveyed a demographically representative sample of UK homeowners, we discovered that overall happiness at home has remained relatively constant compared to 2019.
Humans are indeed creatures of habit, and it appears that despite the upheaval of 2020 and 2021, we are returning to our pre-pandemic norms. As we did in 2019, we asked homeowners to describe their homes using the OCEAN framework – a personality model widely employed by psychologists. We presented participants with ten home personality traits to characterise their living spaces. How we describe our home tells us a lot about how happy we’re likely to be at home.
The essential traits associated with happy homes have persisted. Homeowners who report feeling happy in their homes are significantly more likely to describe them as Relaxed, Sociable, Distinctive and Organised than those who do not. Conversely, those who are least content at home tend to characterise their living spaces as Messy or Unbalanced. Interestingly, this pattern holds true regardless of location, whether it be in a city or the countryside, in a flat or a house – the way we describe our homes correlates strongly with our happiness levels while residing in them.
Work where it suits you
When we first considered the key questions for our research, insights into working from home were a top priority. After all, weren't we told that the pandemic had permanently changed work life? Wasn't remote working, or at least a hybrid approach, the ‘new normal’? Surprisingly, the results suggest otherwise. Nearly a third of people of working age never work from home, and only 9% reported working from home all the time.
For those who do work from home, we wanted to gauge their satisfaction with their workspaces.
If you work from home, being satisfied with the ability to change the layout of spaces proved to be a better predictor of home happiness than having a dedicated office. Home workers with an office report being happy at home 75% of the time. However, home workers who are happy with the ability to change their layout are happy more often – 84% of the time.
This suggests that while having space to work is essential for home happiness, it's even more important to have adaptable spaces than fixed spaces, such as a home office room.
For those dissatisfied with their work setups, only 5% said that, given £10,000 to renovate a room, they would choose a home office. This implies that home offices may not be the priority we initially assumed and, according to the data, we might be better off creating spaces we love that can be adapted for multiple purposes.
We want our homes to work with the rhythms of our days and weeks, and to be able to respond to our changing lives. Here are some questions you and your household should consider, particularly if you work from home:
Space to open up
Of all the rooms in a home, 30% of us would prioritise investing in our kitchen over anywhere else. Interestingly, that figure jumps to 74% for those that don’t have an open-plan kitchen.
Just 22% of homeowners with an open-plan kitchen would invest in improving that existing space. This confirms that kitchens, and open-plan kitchens in particular, are still the most coveted room in the home. We’re looking for spaces where we can both connect with others and carry out functional tasks.
Living spaces like lounges, snugs and dining spaces, are up there alongside open-plan spaces as the most important to us. 65% of us say these living spaces are where we connect with others and half of us say they’re where we best switch off and relax.
Open-plan kitchens limit the barriers between different household members, which in turn facilitates more connection, and home happiness. This suggests that our wellbeing could be improved by embracing open-plan kitchens and living spaces as the heart of the home.
Another room that received a lot of pandemic attention when people couldn’t reach their regular workout space was the home gym. We wanted to know, when all is said and done, does it really make any difference?
We found that those with a home gym were not likely to be happier with their home than those without. The more significant factor is whether you feel your home meets your needs. In other words, is it a space that you can share with others and that supports your day to day routines?Those without a gym who said their home met all their needs are happy at home 85% of the time and those with a gym 88% of the time. So, if you’re looking to renovate and make a meaningful impact, prioritise your ideal kitchen or living space over the much-discussed home gym.
Think deeply about what you like to do with others in your home. What activities do you enjoy, and is hosting important to you?
And speak to a design professional:
Take a look
The most happy homeowners are more likely to say that their homes reflect their true selves than those who are unhappy at home.
Just as in 2019, the research suggests that making your home more ‘you’ can greatly improve the extent to which you can relax and switch off, as well as feel proud to host. Embrace your individuality and focus on creating interiors that genuinely delight and inspire you.
Remember that it isn’t just you though, and you need to consider how to create spaces that reflect all those that you live with.
A 2019 report by Denmark's renowned Happiness Research Institute identified pride in one's home as a core pillar of happiness. Our findings support their work. Among the happiest homeowners, 90% say they feel proud of their homes most of the time, nearly five times as often as the least happy group (17%). This effect remains strong even among those who aren't satisfied with their lives.
In fact, 'Pride' emerged as a key component of overall home happiness for 2023. 70% of respondents who said their home reflects who they are said their home makes them happy. Conversely, just 13% of those who don’t feel their home reflects them feel proud of their home.
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, to be anti-trend is the trend. This means cutting out the noise that comes with popular patterns and honing in on what it is you really like. But, we know it can be hard to navigate how to make your home both reflect you and work for you. If you’re wondering where to start, try answering these questions:
Start big picture:
Then focus on your routines and rituals:
Once you’ve got some ideas, think about how you can reflect what’s most important to you in your home.
Your great outdoors
It’s well documented that outdoor spaces, such as gardens, balconies, or doorstep parks play a crucial role in our wellbeing.
One of our most significant findings in 2020 was that the views from our homes were a more substantial predictor of our happiness than the amount of sunlight available indoors. The importance of views has persisted and we want to highlight it again. Our research shows that people unhappy with their views are four times more likely to say their homes make them sad compared to those satisfied with their vistas.
Collectively, we seem to acknowledge the value of gardens. After our kitchens, we think that gardens are the space where £10,000 would make the most difference. This may indicate that we’re putting more of a premium on gardens since the pandemic.
We also examined the effect of having a garden studio vs having a garden in general has on happiness. The results didn't suggest that garden studios significantly improve happiness, given that gardens already contribute considerably to wellbeing.
84% of respondents with a garden studio reported always or often feeling happy, compared to 75% of those with a studio-free garden. While there is a slight difference, it's not significant enough to suggest a direct link. The disparity could be attributed to extraneous factors like a higher income that allows for the construction of a garden room. In fact, it would seem that the presence of a garden alone is the factor that drives the difference.
Not all homes will have ideal outdoor setups or brilliant views from every window. It’s about working with what you’ve got.
Start by asking yourself:
And when it comes to views from your home:
What’s keeping us up at night
We discussed the fact that half of us always have something to worry about when it comes to our home, but aside from bills, what’s keeping us up at night?
Up to 75% of us are dissatisfied with the temperature of our homes in winter. This links directly to our growing concerns around the cost to run our homes and the energy efficiency of our housing stock.
This finding underscores the need for homes that are more efficient and cost less to run in the long term. It may not be as sexy as the aesthetic work of interior design, but if we get the functionality of our homes right first and foremost we’ll be better poised to be happy in them. That means prioritising good plumbing, good insulation and less maintenance.
Rather than investing in a fancy finish, consider spending some of your home upgrade budget on thermal improvements to your home – like insulation or glazing replacement. These choices are likely to lead to happier homes in the long run.
Of those who say their home makes them stressed, 50% cite not having enough storage, not having an area to call their own and experiencing conflicts about how spaces are used. This was a statistically significant finding versus those who did not feel stressed by their home. What does this tell us? To have a home that helps us avoid conflict and supports us in times of stress, we need to create tidy, private spaces within our households to retreat to.
And remember, we also found that those who describe their home as organised are more likely to be happy at home.
Our findings suggest that whether it’s temperature or storage, we urgently need to tackle what’s causing us stress when it comes to our homes.
Questions you might want to consider:
And more specifically, in relation to tackling our top concerns:
Future-proofing your home
For those least content with their homes, 92% say there's always something to worry about when it comes to their home. They are more than 10 times as likely to feel this way compared to those who are happiest with their homes.
Across the board, when we control for satisfaction with life overall, 53% agree that there is something to worry about regarding their homes. We don’t think that’s good enough, so we delved deeper to pinpoint precisely where our home worries lie.
It’s hardly surprising, but worth noting, that one of the things we’re most worried about is the (increasing) cost of running our homes. And even for those who aren’t actively worried about the cost to run their homes, a third still list their priority for home improvement as bill-reduction above adding space, comfort and value. In turn, reducing the cost to run your home is likely to add value to your home and improve your level of comfort within it. As we’ve seen, comfort and cost are things that most people, including future buyers, are likely to place a premium on.
The current economic climate has made us more cautious spenders, prompting us to reassess our financial priorities. Across all demographic groups, reducing energy bills has emerged as our top priority.
Again, this is no shock. In the UK we have some of the leakiest and draughtiest homes in Europe. Too much of the heat we’re using to warm our homes is escaping through cracks in windows and flimsy walls. To reduce running costs, you need to understand your home’s energy efficiency and create a targeted retrofit plan to address them in the long term.
Retrofitting your home to make it more efficient will also improve your home comfort, which was the next priority for people after reducing energy bills.
Our findings suggest we need to level up our renovation projects and look for ways to combine energy efficiency upgrades into them. This could range from simple DIY draught-proofing measures to investing in insulation or solar panels.
When talking to a design professional, consider:
And ask them:
Throughout this report, we’ve posed questions to you that we think you should be asking yourself on your renovation journey. These are the kinds of questions that we ask our clients to better understand them. Each of these questions links to one or more of our happy home qualities.
With this understanding, we can then design with wellbeing in mind. Our designers can translate the insights into design decisions and features…